Award-winning Cumbrian playwright Emma Rydal returns to Theatre by the Lake to present Soaked, a seriously funny play about a successful middle-aged couple who can never quite put a cork in it. Performing in the Studio from 6 to 11 August at 7.30pm, Soaked delivers a wonderful cocktail of a hilarious night’s entertainment, mixed with the rather more familiar question about whether any of us can admit when we’ve had one too many.
Meet Imogen and Rich, who don’t care if the glass is half full or half empty, as long there is wine in it, that’s what’s important. It’s how they unwind, how they party, how they deal with the stresses of life, young children and high powered jobs. But after twenty years of drinking to excess, Imogen is having second thoughts. She’s tired of waking up with an unexplained bruise, tired of beating herself up when she’s drunk too much, tired of being tired. But is it enough? When life has become so intertwined with a glass or three, is it that easy to break away or might her relationships start to unravel? Perhaps a wake-up call is what she needs.
Rydal, using her masterful comic writing talent, addresses the seldom discussed issue of middle class over-indulgence. She paints a series of hilariously relatable scenarios in the life of the two main characters that highlight their increasing dependence on alcohol and its more serious consequences. With a nod to the hit 70s play Abigail’s Party, imagine instead a contemporary northern set-up with prosecco, pathos and old school ravers on space hoppers and you’ll get the idea. Soon, you’ll be wincing in sympathy and uncomfortable recognition but also roaring with laughter!
Rydal’s career began at Theatre by the Lake over thirty years ago when it was known as The Century Theatre or Blue Box. From making the tea as an office assistant to staging her own play in the Studio this summer, it’s been quite a journey. On her nostalgic return Emma said, “I used to feed the ducks in my lunch break and wish I was one of the actors in the rep season, it all seemed so exciting. I knew then it was what I definitely wanted to do, even though I recognised all the hard work that it would mean.”
Since then she’s pursued a successful acting career, travelling all over the UK and bursting onto the big screen in hit British film East is East. Then followed major roles in Coronation Street, Kay Mellors, Playing The Field, and more recently in Stella on Sky One. Moving back to Cumbria recently and becoming a mum inspired a creative shift for Rydal who transitioned to playwriting.
When asked if Soaked is autobiographical Emma said “Partly. How many times have my friends and husband heard me say the phrase ‘I’m never drinking again’? How many times have we all said that and then followed it with, ‘well I’ll just have a week off’? Then later on decided that a little glass of wine in front of the telly while the kids are settled is a good way to end the day. This play isn’t one in which I’m casting judgement. I’m certainly no saint, but I’ve written a comedy that may just happen to make you consider where you’re heading.”
Applauding Soaked, which first debuted at Rosehill Theatre in 2017, Cumbria Guide Magazine said, “The great cast, great acting and a bloody good script makes for a great excuse to get yourselves along”. The British Theatre Guide also commented on Rydal’s down-to-earth voice and said, “She milks comedy from the banal and the everyday rather like a young Victoria Wood”.
The play is directed by Peter Macqueen, stalwart of the Theatre by the Lake, who theatregoers may recognise from his one-man shows Old Herbaceous and The Professor of Adventure. The cast for Soaked comprises Emma Rydal, Toby Gaffney and Madeleine Joseph. Original score by local composer Nick Smith and set and costume design by Emma Bayliss from Whitehaven. It runs from 6 – 11 August in the Studio at 7.30pm. Tickets are £15.